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ian

Ian's reading 2017

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Book 4: Mr Stink by David Walliams

 

The second original, touching, twisted, and most of all hilarious novel for children from David Walliams, number one bestseller and fastest growing children’s author in the country – beautifully illustrated by Quentin Blake.

"Mr Stink stank. He also stunk. And if it was correct English to say he stinked, then he stinked as well…”

It all starts when Chloe makes friends with Mr Stink, the local tramp. Yes, he smells a bit. But when it looks like he might be driven out of town, Chloe decides to hide him in the garden shed.

Now Chloe's got to make sure no one finds out her secret. And speaking of secrets, there just might be more to Mr Stink than meets the eye… or the nose.

 

My thoughts

 

​My book jar threw this out at me, and I have to say I was quite relieved.  All I've read in 2017 so far have been quite heavy, dystopian books. A nice, light read was in order. This was actually my daughters book; she recommended it to me. I'd seen a couple of BBC adaptations: Billionaire Boy & The boy in the dress and enjoyed them.

 

The spirit of Roald Dahl lives on. A very similar style - delighting in all the things kids enjoy - all nasty parents and stinky smells. And I found plenty of laughs for the adults. The scene with the Prime Minister (not actually named, but he asks that you "call hm Dave") had me laughing out loud, as did any scene with Raj the shop owner. And at the end, a rather nicely done moral about treating people kindly, not matter what they look like.

 

I need to raid the kids bookshelves more often! 5/5 

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Great reviews! I read Mr Stink last December and quite enjoyed it. I'm glad you liked it too :).

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I was very disappointed with Fahrenheit 451.  Whenever I read about classical dystopian books, Fahrenheit 451, 1984 and Brave New World are most of the time mentioned. It's kind of a holy trinity and you can't think of one without the other but I found Bradbury's book very lacking, especially in our current world. 

 

We live in a time when more books are being published and read than ever before. Maybe most/many are garbage but so is everything else in media so what is the difference between looking at a mindless crappy reality show or reading a mindless crappy book? 

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I must admit, I've struggled with Brave New World in the past, and was only able to get a few chapters in. At some point, I'm going to have to give it another crack of the whip.

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Book 5: The Toymaker by Jeremy de Quidt

 

What good is a toy that will wind down? What if you could put a heart in one? A real heart. One that beat and beat and didn't stop. What couldn't you do if you could make a toy like that? 

From the moment Mathias becomes the owner of a mysterious piece of paper, he is in terrible danger. Entangled in devious plots and pursued by the sinister Doctor Leiter and his devilish toys, Mathias finds himself on a quest to uncover a deadly secret.

 

My Thoughts

I really liked this book. Although it's a YA book, it really is very dark - just the thing for reading on these cold, winter nights. There is a very real sense of mystery and evil that I don't always get from some adult books. It's very well written 

 

My only niggle is that it is almost unrelentingly dour. Almost all the characters are selfish or wish evil on Mattias. Even the couple of friends he manages to pick up along the way; Koenig & Katta, are morally ambiguous. There is also a shift in protagonist; from Mattias to Katta which felt a little odd to me, although Katta is the more interesting character. 

 

Warning: the ending is very downbeat. Leading me to hope that there are sequels to this. 4/5

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I'm not sure if the book wouldn't be too dark for me (as I prefer a bit more uplifting books generally), but I found it interesting to read the synopsis and your review :).

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Happy reading in 2017, Ian. Sorry it's late!

 

I love your story about Mrs Baker. I have two teachers in my past who encouraged my love of reading. The first was Mr Berwick when I was in the last year of primary school (what is now called Year 6 but I'm sure was called year four when I was there!), and the second was Mr Menday from secondary school. I already loved reading but they both help to cement that love by their enthusiasm.

 

I've read The Toymaker. The author's wife taught at my children's Primary School!

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I've read The Toymaker. The author's wife taught at my children's Primary School!

That's pretty cool :)!

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Happy reading in 2017, Ian. Sorry it's late!

 

I love your story about Mrs Baker. I have two teachers in my past who encouraged my love of reading. The first was Mr Berwick when I was in the last year of primary school (what is now called Year 6 but I'm sure was called year four when I was there!), and the second was Mr Menday from secondary school. I already loved reading but they both help to cement that love by their enthusiasm.

 

I've read The Toymaker. The author's wife taught at my children's Primary School!

 

That is indeed pretty cool. I think the author himself was a teacher as well?

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Night School by Lee Child

 

It’s 1996, and Reacher is still in the army. In the morning they give him a medal, and in the afternoon they send him back to school. That night he’s off the grid. Out of sight, out of mind.

Two other men are in the classroom—an FBI agent and a CIA analyst. Each is a first-rate operator, each is fresh off a big win, and each is wondering what the hell they are doing there.

Then they find out: A Jihadist sleeper cell in Hamburg, Germany, has received an unexpected visitor—a Saudi courier, seeking safe haven while waiting to rendezvous with persons unknown. A CIA asset, undercover inside the cell, has overheard the courier whisper a chilling message: “The American wants a hundred million dollars.”

For what? And who from? Reacher and his two new friends are told to find the American. Reacher recruits the best soldier he has ever worked with: Sergeant Frances Neagley. Their mission heats up in more ways than one, while always keeping their eyes on the prize: If they don’t get their man, the world will suffer an epic act of terrorism.

From Langley to Hamburg, Jalalabad to Kiev, Night School moves like a bullet through a treacherous landscape of double crosses, faked identities, and new and terrible enemies, as Reacher maneuvers inside the game and outside the law.

 

My Thoughts.

 

Short review. Meh.

 

Longer review. Perhaps I've read too many of these now. Pretty standard fare - Reacher has a few fights, gets the girl, solves the crime. Etc, etc. And while I still sort of enjoyed it, they are getting a bit samey. 3/5

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I guess it's inevitable after 21 books in a series. And if he does something radically different, people like me would then be complaining that it he's changed the nature of Reacher!

So I do understand that he has perhaps painted himself into a corner a little.

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The same! Not that I didn't enjoy most of the books we read. But, looking back, was I really old enough to properly understand To Kill a Mockingbird? 

And  (draws breath), Shakespeare will always be, for me, something to watch, rather than read. (There I said it!)

Still, we did some fine books, and she was always complimentary of my book reviews.

 

When I did my mock exam, 6 months before the real thing, I got a B. When I sat down for the real thing, I'm afraid I sat there and thought "what is  the actual point of doing a character assessment on a fictional person?"  Then my mind went a bit blank. I know I wrote something, but it couldn't have been any good - I got a U.

 

Fortunately, it didn't impact on my love of reading!

s

 

Hah! Well, re Shakespeare, I freely admit, and confess.......me too!

 

Love Mr. Stink!

Great reviews, ian!

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Me too re Shakespeare!  Better to watch, and even that can be heavy going sometimes.

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Book 7. It Can't Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis.

 

 It Can't Happen Here is a cautionary tale about the fragility of democracy, an alarming, eerily timeless look at how fascism could take hold in America. Written during the Great Depression when America was largely oblivious to Hitler's aggression, it juxtaposes sharp political satire with the chillingly realistic rise of a President who becomes a dictator to save the nation from welfare cheats, rampant promiscuity, crime, and a liberal press. Now finally back in print, It Can't Happen Here remains uniquely important, a shockingly prescient novel that's as fresh and contemporary as today's news.

 

My Thoughts

They had this book on prominent display in my local Waterstone's, while outside an anti-Trump rally was taking place. I was intrigued.

I found the first third of the book a bit rambling, and while it does get a lot better after that, I wouldn't say that it lives up to other political dystopian novels like 1984.  Where this does score highly (for me) is the inevitable parallels that you can draw with today's political situation, and you can see how easily a democracy could slide into a more extreme form of government.

The fact that this was written in 1935, before most people had any real idea of the route that Hitler would take Germany down is astounding.

 

So, not a book to enjoy perhaps, but one to read as a cautionary tale. 3/5

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Book 8: A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

 

Eleven-year-old Owen Meany, playing in a Little League baseball game in Gravesend, New Hampshire, hits a foul ball and kills his best friend's mother. Owen doesn't believe in accidents; he believes he is God's instrument. What happens to Owen after that 1953 foul is both extraordinary and terrifying. At moments a comic, self-deluded victim, but in the end the principal, tragic actor in a divine plan, Owen Meany is the most heartbreaking hero John Irving has yet created.

 

My Thoughts.

 

I can't remember when or how this book was recommended to me. It had sat on my Kindle for a while. I suspect it was a book that was mentioned within another book - possibly Stephen King; he has form for that kind of thing.

 

Whoever, however; thank you. I think this book will live in my personal top ten (which contains about 50 books to date).  I don't want to say too much. I approached this book knowing nothing about it: I hadn't even read the synopsis above until today - after I'd finished it. It was a good way to read it. Everything was a bit of a surprise, although most of what happens to the Owen Meany is revealed to you beforehand. You know the "what", but not the "how". At times tragic and at other times crudely comic, but with a lot to say on the nature of faith, belief and simple friendship. Perhaps not an easy book to read; it does ramble from the 1950's up to the 80's nad back again seemingly randomly.  It does all come together at the end, if not nicely, then at least with everything clear.  There were a couple of times when I had to put it down and just breathe and think about what I'd just read. Always a good sign for a book for me!  It won't be to everyone's taste, but I would recommend it to anybody. 5/5

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I've been meaning to read something by John Irving for years, but after all this time I still haven't. Glad you enjoyed one of his books :).

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The Gunslinger (Dark Tower 1) by Stephen King

 

In The Gunslinger (originally published in 1982), King introduces his most enigmatic hero, Roland Deschain of Gilead, the Last Gunslinger. He is a haunting, solitary figure at first, on a mysterious quest through a desolate world that eerily mirrors our own. Pursuing the man in black, an evil being who can bring the dead back to life, Roland is a good man who seems to leave nothing but death in his wake. (taken from Goodreads)

 

My Thoughts

Quite un-deliberately, I have managed to read almost everything Stephen King has written with the exception of the Dark Tower books. As SK books tend to be very self-referencing, I was beginning to feel I was missing out. The final straw was Insomnia (which is a great book BTW). So the Dark Tower  books went on the TBR pile.

 

I was quite disappointed. I found the story to be very disjointed and patchy. I have since found out that the book is a re-working of five separate short stories - and unfortunately, it shows.  The flashbacks to the young Roland, The story in Tull & the part describing Jake's life in New York were all much more interesting than the seemingly endless and frankly pointless crossing of the desert.  I can only hope the rest of the books are better, as I have then on the Kindle now! Easily the least interesting King book I've ever read   - yes, worse than Bag of Bones! But still, in appreciation of the bits I liked - 3/5 

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What a shame this one wasn't so great :(. I hope you'll like the other ones better! Also, wow on reading almost everything Stephen King has written, that's a lot of books!

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I also have struggled to enjoy The Dark Tower. The series gets better, and I think peaks with Wizard and Glass, and then sort of tapers off. :dunno: I think I wanted to enjoy it a lot more than I actually did. Still, I keep hoping that a re-read will change my mind.

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I had actually started the second book, but I decided I wanted something different instead, so I went up the library with my daughter and we both got a couple of books.

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Book 10: The Pig Bin by Michael Richardson

 

'Your mind's full of rubbish, Morley, just like that pig bin.' The Pig Bin is a laugh-out-loud novel about the embarrassing escapades of a war time adolescent. Morley Charles is a shy Catholic boy with a stammer. His mother disapproves of most of his friends; his father is away at the war; his uncle is a black marketeer, and the drunk lodger staying with them is a source of shame. Morley has started exploring his body, and is desperate to find the right word to describe the sinful pleasure he's just discovered so he can make his confession and not go straight to hell if a bomb falls on him. Things start to look up, however, when the American serviceman who's sweet on his neighbor gives him a brand new lumber jacket. May, his aunt, is generous with the affection his mother seems unable to show. If he pretends to be French his stammer miraculously vanishes, and his artistic talent might give him a future at the Balsley School of Art. With the war nearly over, all he needs to do now is find that word.

 

My Thoughts

Picked this up at the library, and it seemed interesting. What really sold me on it was the fact that it is set exactly where I live.  It's obviously based on the experiences of the author himself, and is in turns funny and occasionally quite sad, as we see life in south Birmingham at the very end of world war 2 through the eyes of a 13 year old boy, with all the preoccupations  that boys that age have. My only disappointment - hardly any of Morley's problems are resolved by the end - Has he painted a picture for Russ, the American soldier, has he been acecpted into Art School. Funny though, I enjoyed this quite a lot. 3/5

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Book 11: Even dogs in the wild - Ian Rankin

 

Retirement doesn’t suit John Rebus. He wasn’t made for hobbies, holidays or home improvements. Being a cop is in his blood.
So when DI Siobhan Clarke asks for his help on a case, Rebus doesn’t need long to consider his options.
Clarke’s been investigating the death of a senior lawyer whose body was found along with a threatening note. On the other side of Edinburgh, Big Ger Cafferty – Rebus’s long-time nemesis – has received an identical note and a bullet through his window.
Now it’s up to Clarke and Rebus to connect the dots and stop a killer.
Meanwhile, DI Malcolm Fox joins forces with a covert team from Glasgow who are tailing a notorious crime family. There’s something they want, and they’ll stop at nothing to get it.
It’s a game of dog eat dog – in the city, as in the wild.

 

My Thoughts.

 

I really enjoyed this.   Rebus is as irascible as ever, Siobhan Clarke as in part frustrated  and admiring  of him. Fox is finding his feet outside of the "complaints". Edinburgh's criminal underbelly are ready to go to war with each other over some missing merchandise. It takes a while for the connections to come together and when they did, it went in a direction I wasn't expecting at all. That's why I like this series. After 20 books, they still have the capacity to surprise.  There's plenty of life in the old dog yet! 5/5 

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Book 12: The Drawing of the Three - Stephen King

 

While pursuing his quest for the Dark Tower through a world that is a nightmarishly distorted mirror image of our own, Roland is drawn through a mysterious door that brings him into contemporary America.

Here he links forces with the defiant young Eddie Dean, and with the beautiful, brilliant, and brave Odetta Holmes, in a savage struggle against underworld evil and otherworldly enemies.

Once again, Stephen King has masterfully interwoven dark, evocative fantasy and icy realism

 

My Thoughts

I really wasn't keen on the first book, but I was assured by others here that the series does improve over the next couple of books

Well, you were right. This book feels much more coherent. There is an actual story happening, and characters that I actually care about. Can't wait to read the next one now! 4/5

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Nice to hear it does improve as the series goes on. I hope you enjoy the next one too! Due to gifts and deals and such I've acquired books 4, 4.5, 5 and 7 over the years. I'm not sure if you can read them without reading the first few books first, so I'm leaving them for later and plan to read other Stephen King books first.

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